Helping the HungryOne in eight people struggle with hunger, including many children. One way municipalities can help their hungry citizens for very little cost is to promote backyard gardens, including keeping small flocks of chickens. Eggs from hens allowed to forage and move freely (even within appropriately sized enclosed areas) are much higher in nutrients than those available at grocery stores. From Mother Earth News:
Backyard hens' eggs cost about $2 a dozen (for feed and wood shavings; less if they are given more kitchen scraps, weeds and grass), which cost more than $4 a dozen for (almost) comparably nutritious eggs at the grocery store. They are a great source of affordable protein.
Food SecurityIf someone wanted to cripple a whole lot of people, that someone could attack large sources of food, such as the drought has attacked the nation's corn crop this year. Or when 228 million eggs were recalled in August 2010 because of a huge salmonella outbreak. When you grow corn in your backyard and raise a small flock of hens for eggs, you are at a much smaller risk of food losses. Taxpayers and insurance companies and families save money on health care costs from such outbreaks.
In his life-changing book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben discusses at length the importance of focusing on small and local. Food, energy, and governance needs to be focused on local, manageable projects. Keeping a backyard flock is part of that movement.
Vitamin NContact with nature including gardens and pets (backyard chickens are a hybrid of pets and food source), has shown to reduce mental illness - including depression and anxiety - obesity and even violence. It improves mood and the ability to concentrate (hello test scores), and speeds up physical healing. Backyard gardens, parks, household pets, neighborhood trees, and yes, chickens, help create healthier people and healthier communities. Richard Louv calls contact with nature Vitamin N. In his book The Nature Principle, he writes, "an emerging high-tech/high-nature housing design philosophy includes conserving energy, using nature-friendly materials, and also applying biophilic design principles to promote health, human energy, and beauty." (p. 161) Backyard chickens are not a fallback to dirt yards in podunkville, they are a part of a diverse and progressive redesign of urban living that includes wilderness, gardens, and high-tech living.
Healthy Children and CommunitiesWhat happens when you give kids nutritious food, a sense of security, and a connection with nature? They do better in school and are less likely to follow a violent lifestyle.
And what about adults? Well, the same thing happens. Healthy, safe, engaged adults care for themselves and their neighbors.
Now who wouldn't want to create these conditions for their cities? Well cared for urban chickens need to be legalized in Aurora, Colorado.